Title page

Table of content





The aim of the study

Scope of study

Definition of terms

Biography and works of Ola Rotimi

Chapter one

1.1       literature review

1.2       drama and politics

chapter two

2.1 ideology of the ruling class in if… a Tragedy of the rule

2.2 ideology of the ruling class in hope of the Living dead

Chapter three

3.0 Class consciousness in the two plays

3.1 class consciousness in if …

3.2 class consciousness in hope of the living dead




In any state tyranny exist two segments of the community if they join forces could pull down the tyrant. The intellectuals on one hand and the generality of the masses, down the tyrant. The intellectuals on one hand and the generality of the masses, the down trodden if they team up could pull down the might of the tyrant, his propaganda machineries and his guns notwithstanding.

In this research project, we intend to examine politics and class consciousness in ola Rotimi’s play: if… and HOPES OF THE LIVING DEAD. We intend to examine the ideology of the ruling class and the exploited class in Ola Rotimi’s plays. There shall be introduction and the aim of the research. It shall view politics from a sociological perspective.

The scope of the research shall also be defined, including important terms and the biography and works of Ola Rotimi.

The study shall be divided into three main chapters.

Chapter two shall take a look at the Literature review, as well sa the relationship between drama and politics.

Chapter two shall explore the ideology of the ruling class in IF… and HOPES OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Chapter three shall discuss class consciousness in the two plays. And there shall be conclusion and bibliography.


Drama is a dynamic art, it can be used as a social document. Drama can be used to portray the outlines of social history. It is the most expressive of the essential idea of art as politics because drama or theatre is the medium in which the fundamental forces of life are contested, decided and analysed for mankind to see the way through the labyrinth called living.

In his book; Drama in West Africa’’ Ogunba (1971) states that:

Many people think that ‘’drama’’ is just laughter and

up roaring jest whereas it is a medium admirably suited

for making deep, psychological probes into the

consciousness of a community (Ogunba 1971:100).

Drama can be for a diverse number of things. In order to avoid ambiguity, the importance of drama can be summarised under three functional levels namely: education, entertainment and information. Under these functions, drama or theatre can be used to achieve various ends, the most important is conscientisation. According to Kidd (1980)

Drama reflect on the lives and values of the society. It is a catalyst for social education because it awakens the masses to the realisation because it awakens the masses to the realisation of their intellectual abilities so that they begin to learn and analyse their own problems and by so doing, they get prepared to act to change things. (Kidd, 1980:14)

It is obvious that the principal functions of drama or theatre goes far beyond the provision of amusement and relaxation. In fact, it fulfils a social duty. Drama, even in its earliest form has had more than pleasure to offer to the society. It also serves as a means of human inquiry, elevation of man’s consciousness and expression of man’s will.


Apparently, this topic was not chosen by accident. I decided to undertake a study of politics and class consciousness in Ola Rotimi’s plays because it seems to me that man’s major problem today are exploitation and oppression caused by class stratification, most especially in Nigeria.


          This study embraces the suffering masses. It shall take a look at the social, political and economic exploitation of the masses, by the ruling class Ola Rotimi’s IF… a tragedy of the rule, and HOPES OF THE LIVING DEAD.

The social-political situation of the societies of the play shall examined. The politics and class consciousness in the two plays shall also be examined.


The topic of this research project is ‘’politic and class consciousness’’

Politics, derived from the classical Greek World ‘’polis’’ (meaning a political community of citizens) identified with a ‘’city-state’’. In his definition of politics, Aristotle observes that ‘’man is by nature a political animal’’ by this he meant that the essence of social existence is politics and that two or more men interacting with one another are invariably involved in a political relationship. Aristotle also meant that this is a natural and inevitable predisposition among men and that very few people prefer an isolated existence to one that includes social companionship.

As men seek to define their position in social, as the attempt to wring personal security from available resources and as they try to influence others to accept their points of view, they find themselves engaging in politics. In this broad sense, everyone is a politician. Aristotle concluded, however, that the only way to maximize one’s individual capabilities and to attain the highest form of social life was through political interaction with others in an institutionalized setting, a setting designed to resolve social conflict and to set collective goal. All people are politicians, but then some are more political than others.

Between the sixteenth and early twentieth centuries, ‘’politics’’ was understood more narrowly than it was by the Greeks. Jean Bodin (1530 – 1596), a French political philosopher, coined the term ‘’political science’’ (science politique). But Bodin was also a lawyer, and his focus on the characteristics of the state gave political science as abiding concern for the organization of institutions related to law.

Another French philosopher, Montesque (1689 – 1755), argued that all the functions of government could be encompassed within the categories of legislation, execution and the adjudication of law. Politics is indeed a complex process involving citizen attitudes and interests, group organization, electioneering and lobbying, as well as the formation, implementation and interpretation of law. In short, contemporary political scientists recently have moved back towards the Greek’s understanding of politics, and most of them consider any aspect of society that directly or indirectly affects the institutions of the state to be appropriate subject matter for their tools of inquiry.

The term consciousness is a broad concept that is used in my senses. It is however more defined in the psychological, mystical and philosophical senses. Consciousness derives its name from a Latin word ‘’Conscire’’ meaning ‘’to know, to be aware of’’. Philosophically, consciousness has been regarded as the centre point of perception and knowledge. According to Fredrick Engel in his book; ‘’philosophical Forum’’ he refers to Consciousness as:

The waking state of the mind, the centre point

of perception and knowledge (Engel 1955: 327).

This research project has tried giving an insight to the objective of this project. It contains an explicit definition of key words of phrases used in this topic and also the scope to be covered.


According to Wellecks:

The most obvious cause of the work of art is its creator,

the author and hence the explanation in terms of the personality of the life of the writer has been one of the oldest and best method of literary study (Welleck el al, 1973 : 1)

arguing from the essence of biographical criticism, C. A. Saint – Beuve Observes that:

it consist in studying each person, that is each author, each

taken according to the condition of his mature in order to

make a vivid and pregnant description of him so that

he can later be classified and put in his proper place in the

hierarchy of art. (Sainte – Beuve. 191: 06).

The author is often susceptible to the socio – political condition of his time, place and parentage. For a proper understanding of Rotimi’s contribution to the issue – politics and class consciousness, it is pertinent to have a look at his biography. As a result, his birth and education attainment will be discussed.

Olawale Emmanueel Gladstone Rotimi’s was the youngest of three children of his parents. He was born on 13th April, 1938 in Sapele, Delta state. His grandparents came from Siere – Loene and Ghana. His Father Samuel Enetan Rotimi, a Yoruba, from Western Nigeria, married Docas Orueme, an Ijaw from Nembe in Bayelsa state of Nigeria.

Rotimi has had a sound Western education both at home and abroad. According to the International Register of profile:

Ola Rotimi was precocious as a Theatre artist, First appearing on state at the age of four a play directed and produced by his father, a steam – launch Engineer by profession … (Profile 1983: 792)

He schooled at Methodist Boys High School Lagos between 1952 and 1957. His flair for writing earned him the nickname ‘’Shakespare incarnate’’ and ‘’the poet’’. After working for two years, he proceeded to the United State of America with a Federal Government Scholarship which he won in 1959 to study Directing at Boston University from 1959 -1963. After his first degree in Directing he went to Yale University with a Rockefeller Foundatin Scholarship to study play writing and Dramatic Literature. He finally came back home in 1966. Some of his work have been broadcast on Nigeria radio and published in institutional magazines.

His works includes ‘’An Elegy on the First West African Bishop’’ ‘’our Husband Has Gone Mad Again’’ his socio – political satirical comedy. His first play ‘’To stir the gods of Iron’’ was written in 1963 but was not able to cause a stir. The play that set him at the pinnacle of fame is ‘’The Gods Are Not To Blame’’ which he wrote in 1963. With this play, he won the African Arts d’ Africa Annual prize in play righting, Rotimi style of using the history hos people for dramatic purposes has added to his literary popularity. In his article ‘’Nigeria Traditional Drama’’ Rotimi attested to the fact that his play, whether tragic or comic are drawn from his roots. (Rotimi, 1971:36)

He was also an accomplished play director and the founding father of the University of Port Harcourt Theatre, The Crab. He also founded a repertory company performing in Yoruba Language, Nigerian Pidgin English and English. Dapo Adelugba has this to say of him:

Rotimi’s ability as a Theatre Director has once again shone out triumphantly in this production (Sunday Sketch, 1973).

He was referring to ‘’our Husband Has gone Mad Again’’ Rotimi’ is noted for his stage composition, meticulous handling of characters, set and props on stage. Omotosho remarks that:

Ola Rotimi has an epic hand in the dispersal

characters, props and set stage. (Nigerian Tribune 1983).

His artistic diligence was not in just adopting Yoruba proverbs, dance and music, in his theatrical commitment. He was the founder of ‘’Ori Olokun’’ Theatre – then an organ of the University of Ife Institute of Africa study. This theatre was mainly concerned with the practical expression of musical dance and drama. A consideration of the states of the evolution of his artistic career shows that Rotimi initially tended towards historical tragedies and witty satires ‘’The Gods Are Not To Blame’’ is adapted from Greek and fitted into the Yoruba world view.

Kurumi (1971) and Ovonranwen Nogbaisi (1974) are also reconstructions of history. His later plays, on the other hand, focus on the contradiction in a society submerged under the yoke of capitalist individualism and social decadence. His later concern for the masses and the oppressed reminds one of the revolutionary theatre of Augusto Boal and Bertolt Bretch.

In ‘’IF … a tragedy of the ruled’’ for instance he takes us into the world of socio-political conflict from the point of view of a group of disenchanted characters. The play imaginatively revreates Nigerian socio-political history though in the form of a tragedy, it depicts thought and reminiscence through which the political future of Nigeria finds succinct out let. Commenting on the relevance of his works in statement (1983) Rotimi says that:

It seeks to show that the fears forecast yesterday are casually becoming today’s reality with us (Rotimi 1983: 16)

In Holding Talks, a modern absurdist drama, he presents satirical situation of the natural psyche of indecision and confusion of a country where almost nothing works.


Hopes of the Living Dead’’ Ola Rotimi shows what a true leader should be. Though the play is a historical fact distilled into dramatic truth, it projects collective struggle solidarity, self – reliance and purposeful leadership. In his other numerous publications Rotimi assumes the uncompromising position of severe social critic and a social commentator. In his interview with ‘’Sunday Tribune’’, Rotimi claims that hius plays cut across semi- illiterate as well as University intellectual sections of the society. To some criticisms of his works he has this to say:

The hostilities and prejudices of criticism which are usually

pejorative is very common with our literary critics… I don’t think

they take pains to get acquainted with the works they castigate.

Critical etiquette and play demands that a critic gets himself

better acquainted with the work of art he is to analyse (Boston, 1963:3).

On the issue of FESTAC 77, Rotimi wrote an article captioned ‘’I beg to Disagree Sir’’. This  work which was published in one of Nigeria’s dailies disagrees with Chief Awolowo on the issue of FESTAC ‘’77’’. He also talk about discarding the old national anthem. Here he was quite openly in favour of the old anthem in the essay captioned ‘’Don’t throw away the baby with the bath water’’. He contends that the old anthem should be given a chance to compete with whichever poems that represent the new effort (Sunday Times Feb., 5, 1978:5).

In an article captioned ‘’Uniport Rumpus two Different Views;; Rotimi also shows his concern as a true Nigerian citizen when he say:

I am writing first as a Nigerian like any other,

and secondly as an academic (Sunday Tide: 8).

Ola Rotimi was married to Hazel Mac Grandreua of Lanesville, Gloucester Massachusette, USA. She was a trained singer and studied at Boston, Lowa and Ife University. She was deeply involve in Rotimi’s dramatic productions when she provided the background music during the staging of ‘’Hopes of the Living Dead’’. Their marriage was blessed with four children: Enitan, Oroeme, Biodun and Kola.

Rotimi’s hobbies are playing scrabble, listening to choral music, playing practical jokes on relatives and close friend, solitude and soccer. His preferred leisure reading includes; Famous biographies and detective stories. When asked what his ultimate ambition is, Rotimi humorously replied:

My ultimate ambition is to write a full length massiveness in music dance and movement lasting for two whole hours and half directed by me; Mobilizing a five hundred man cast and then collapse and die after making my last exit on stage acting it… (Rotimi 1974: 25).

He died on the 18th August, 2000.


Ross Kid (1980)                    people’s theatre conscientisation and struggle’’,                                                 Oxford university Press, London.

Fredrick Engels (1955)                   ‘’philosophical Forum’’ Routledge publication, New                                                Fetler Lane, London.

Welleck and Warren (1971) ‘’causeries Du Lundi: Quoted Topics in Criticism,                                                 compiled. C. Butter and A. Flower, London.

Profile (1973)                         ‘’international Register of profile: Ed, Vii,                                                         International Biographic Centre England’’, Melrose                                            Press Ltd.

Attenberd, Levis (1974)        ‘’A Hand book for the study of drama Macmillian                                                           Publishers.

Rotimi Ola (1971)                  ‘’Nigerian Traditional Drama: an introduction to                                                 Nigerian Literature Ed. Bruce King Ibadan,                                                    University of Lagos and Evans Brothers Ltd.

———————-(1983)          statement: Lagos Kurumi adventure Ltd.

……………….(1974)             Ola Rotimi in Benth Landforce, Ed. Den say                                                 interview with eight contemporary Nigerian writers.                                             Texas, Afro – American.

Sketch (1973)                        Sunday Sketch, Ibadan sketch publishing Company                                         Ltd. September, 25

Boston (1963)                        Boston University, New Boston University Press,                                                 Tuesday May, 7

Tide (1977)                                      Sunday Tide, Port Harcourt, Rivers State News                                                         paper Corporation., January, 20.

Times (1978)                         Sunday Times: Lagos Daily Times Nigeria Ltd.,                                                 February, 5

Tribune (1983)                       Nigerian Tribune. Ibadan. African Newspaper of                                                 Nigeria Ltd., Saturday, 12.


1.1                       LITERATURE REVIEW

This chapter shall examine the nations of politics and class consciousness on none hand; and the function of literature on the other.

According to Karl Marx, Literature is a source of information, a documentation of the people’s philosophy, politics and world view. He says

All artists and writers of high promise of time must for long periods of time unreservedly and whole heartedly go into the midst of the masses, the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers. They must go into fiery struggle… (Craig, 1974: 14:15).

Marx writers on the artists responsibility and practical link with society. He is of the view that literature should be linked with the struggle for man to do away with the unbearable and anti-human conditions that now pervade mankind.

Fischer Ernest, in his book ‘’The Necessity of Art’’ is also of the view that:

Art is necessary in order that man would be able to recognise and change the world (Ernest, 1963:26)

Femi Osofisan, another vast scholar of the theatre contends that:

The contemporary playwright through the theatre is no more interested in evoking harmony but in disrupting the system itself inquest of progressive social revolution (Osofisan, 1974: 15).

He is of the opinion that a majority of the plays are no more written merely for entertainment but to expand particular ideology stand or denounce some prevalent socio-political practices in society. Many dramatist have taken after the Marxist doctrine, their dramatic preoccupation is now principally with the proletariat class. There is ample evidence to prove that Ola Rotimi and many other Nigerians dramatist believed in the total emancipation of man from capitalist society, a society free from exploitation and oppression.

D.A. Lapin in her master of Arts Thesis on ‘’The Festival plays of Wole Soyinka’’, writes that drama is concomitant with the social and political events going on in the society. In her own view, drama is a replica of actual life happenings a chronicle of what takes place in a society. She says:

…through drama, human society can know wher3e it has erred and make amend to rectify the moral and political blunder it has committed (Lapin, 1971:14)

Friedrich J. Carl, in his book ‘’man and his Government’’ Considers politic as

….the art or science of managing the affairs and resources of human being… (Carl, 1963: 42).

Fredrick Engel states that consciousness is:

The waking state of the mid, the centre point of perception and knowledge (Engel, 1971:4).

In as mush as literature treats human being, it is political and has something to do with society. There is no literature without public involvement. From what various writers have said on the issue of politics and class consciousness, they agree with Marxist postulations that literature should be seen as the eye through which the world is seen as a particular point in time.

They emphasise the class relationship between the oppressed and the oppressors. The focus of their work is the predicament of the masses, the underprivileged and the group of have notes in the class structured society. And this seems to be the preoccupation of Ola Rotimi in the plays we have chosen to study.


Drama and politics almost invariable raises big and profound issues; government politics and citizens reactions to them, what ideology governs a given humans society, socio – political problems, the exploration of which very often bring up blue prints for revolution. It is inevitable that drama, especially in developing countries, has to confront such issues, since they are the ones people encounter daily, discuss virtually every minute of their lives, read about on pages of newspapers and hear and watch on the radio and television.

We may paraphrase Chinua Achebe by asking: what has drama or theatre got to do with politics? In fact, one way to respond to this poser is to invoke the  famous observation by Kenya novelist and radical critic, Ngugi Wa Thiong O’ when he said that all artist, all writers are in politics. But what is often at dispute is what and whose politics? Ngugi’s position merely reinforces the traditional perception of the artist in African society which Wole Soyinka echoed in 1967, when he proclaimed that the artist has always functioned as the interpreter and conscience of his society.

Soyinka, in fact, insisted that the relevance of the artist in this milieu is measured by how acutely he mirrors the reality of his society and points the way forward to higher ideas and more humane alternative. So whether as traditionalists, modernists, conservatives radicals, reactionaries or revolutionaries, all artists are in politics.

Drama is one of the most viable weapons for the critical, objective, and result oriented analysis of nation crying for a re-birth. As a form of social consciousness and cognising reality, art is inevitably political. This is because drama either charts the course of effective societal transformation or of delaying it.

The politics of today is an established fact in which every citizen, as a matter of right, is free to participate. A new political movement has been founded to replace the former political associations which have been derived by protest of all sorts which to a large extend brought about the collapse of the second republic. Since politics is essentially the art or science of managing the affair and resources of human beings. The present political movement which is statutorily organised and public financed, is instituted to bring about a new kind of mechanism for engineering social changes without the kind of conflict which brought bloodshed and vision to our nation – state. Both drama and politics represents two issues economic interest and social drives.

Drama aims at influencing people’s consciousness including political decisions and social attitudes; therefore, the artist is inevitably a politician. This is because in dealing with human relationships, the artist is dealing with operation of power in a society including who controls that power, who maintain it and use to which such power is put. It is in this sense that Mao Tse Tung argued that:

In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art’s sake that stands above classes or art that is detached from or independent of politics (Tung, 1967:25)

Many socialist dramatist have used the medium of drama to comment on the prevailing socio-political situation in the country. These plays are politically oriented. Plays like Wole Soyinka’s Kong’s Harvest’’, Femi Osofisan’s Another Raft’’, Ngugi wa Thiong Os, ‘’Trials of Dedan Kimathi’’ and of course Ola Rotimi’s IF… and Hopes of the Living Dead’’. It is often said that drama aims at influencing people consciousness including their political decision and social attitudes. This implies that the political and economic situations in the country are the major stimuli for the works of these socialist dramatists. They employ revolutionary dramatic technique.

Capable of bearing the burden of their message across to their audience both the privileged and the under privileged. They employ drama as a persuasive instrument in their campaign for better living condition and more right for their less privileged in their society.


Achebe Chinua (1975)                            ‘’The African Writer and the Biafran cause’’ In                                                                morning yet on creation day Henemann, London

Craig David (1977)                         Marxism on Literature: an anthology Penguin,                                                                    penguin London.

Ernest Fischer (1963)                    The Necessity of Art (Trans), Anna Bostock                                                           Penguin London

Osofisan B. A (1974)                      the origin of Drama in West Africa: a study of the                                                           development of drama from the traditional forms to                                                      the modern theatre in English and French. PH.D                                                           Dissertation, University of Ibadan.

Frederick Carl (1963)                     Man and his Government. New York, Mc Craw                                                           Hill.

Lapin D. A (1971)                           the festival plays of Wole Soyinka. M.A Thesis.                                                           University of Winscousin.

Soyinka Wole (1971)                      ‘’Happy Raddiance’’ Nigerian Herrald. Oxford                                                                    University press, London.

Wa Thiong ‘O’ Ngugi (1981)          ‘’Writer in politics’’ Henemann, London.


Leave a Reply